You are on page 1of 14

Possible future for the Indian apprenticeship system

Moving from the 20th to the 21st century

As is the case in many other countries, the modern-day Indian apprenticeship system was laid
down in the mid-twentieth century. At this time the economy was very different (for example,
greater emphasis on manufacturing), and also expectations about work and learning were
different. In particular the expectation that learning would occur only at the start of ones
working life has changed, since that time, throughout much of the world.
Other countries have also been grappling with the need to change their apprenticeship
systems. In the Anglophone world, Australia (in the 1980s and 1990s) and more recently the
UK have been moving to a mass apprenticeship system with coverage (in non-graduate jobs)
across all sectors in the economy. These countries have also allowed mature-aged workers to
undertake apprenticeships and allowed entry to people already employed by a company. In
the UK, for example, apprenticeships have increased ten-fold in less than a decade. On the
other hand, countries like Canada have continued to confine their apprenticeship system
primarily to manufacturing and construction jobs, and although their systems are successful,
they are narrow in reach.
India faces a choice about whether to move into mass apprenticeships or to remain with a
relatively limited apprenticeship system. Currently India has only about 300,000 apprentices
compared with a labour force of nearly 500 million people. This proportion of less than
0.01% of the workforce compares unfavourably with the countries having small systems,
such as the United States with a participation rate of 0.3% of the workforce. We compared the
small system countries with large system countries such as Germany and Australia, which
both have around 3.7% of their workforces participating in apprenticeships. However it needs
to be remembered that around 90% of Indias economy is informal, and so the proportion of
Indias formal workforce that are apprentices might be seen as around 0.1%, still a small
proportion compared with other small system countries, but one that is not inconsistent with
other developing countries.
The relatively small size of the current system provides an opportunity to fashion a modern
and targeted system that requires relatively low adjustment costs and would encounter
relatively low levels of opposition compared with those countries with much larger systems
that try to change direction.

Identified issues in the Indian system

A number of issues were identified as a result of analysis of the Indian system in the Stage 1
report of this project. The issues can be divided into issues relating to the apprenticeship
system itself and contextual issues.
Issues relating to the apprenticeship system itself

Participation, both of employers, and of workers, is very low compared with other
Stipend rates for apprentice are very low;
There are high levels of regulatory requirements for employers and associated
penalties for non-compliance;

There is a shortage of trained teachers and trainers;

There is a lack of infrastructure and ICTs in ITIs modern equipment, raw materials
There is little coverage of trades in the service sector, which has higher employment
There is obsolete and inflexible curriculum;
There is lack of convergence between various agencies;
There is lack of coverage of apprenticeships in rural areas;
There are low rates of employment after completion of apprenticeship;
There is a lack of vertical mobility of apprentices into higher-level qualifications;
There is a lack of involvement by employers or industry bodies in curriculum
development or review; and
The quota system does not appear to be effective.

Contextual issues
Those that provide an imperative for the expansion of apprenticeships

Requirements for large numbers of skilled workers;

Limited capacity of institutional training to provide larger numbers of qualified and
skilled workers;
High unemployment and high youth unemployment in particular; and
Oversupply of graduate-qualified people versus trade-qualified people.

Those that make expansion of apprenticeships difficult

Low status of VET

Low social status of apprenticeships in particular
The large informal economy
Large proportion of population in rural areas
Limited capacity of government to administer a larger system of the current level of

Issues identified by stakeholders as important

1. Lack of enterprise engagement in the system
Considering the size of the Indian economy, the number of enterprises that take on
apprentices is extremely low - around 24,000 establishments. As a comparison, the number of
employers that employ apprentices in just one State in Australia, Queensland (only the third
most populous State), is 22,500, and in the UK there are 120,000 sites employing apprentices,
although that includes multiple sites of major companies. The low number of participating
enterprises is reported to be partly due to the limited occupational coverage but also due to
the high requirements placed upon employers, as explained in several of the points that

2. Inappropriate requirements for in-company training

Trade apprentices must be provided basic training and related instruction training as laid
down by the Apprentices Rules, and this has to be provided by employers. This is in addition
to the practical training gained through working, and is unusual among national apprentice
systems, at least in a compulsory sense. In-house classroom training cannot be outsourced
except in exceptional circumstances. The effect of this rule is that substantial costs for the
provision of this basic training, only in the case of Trade Apprentices, must be carried by the
employer, and this makes recruitment of apprentices relatively unattractive. Under the
Craftsman Training Scheme there is no requirement for in-company formal training, as it is
assumed that they have received their basic training through prior instruction at a
government-run Industrial Training Institute or privately-run Industrial Training Centre for
which the apprentices receive certification. Despite the prescriptive regulation, there is
nevertheless concern in some quarters that apprentices are not being properly trained in
companies, and a perception that they are sometimes used as cheap labour.
Rule 9 (A) in the apprenticeship regulations mandates the staffing pattern and qualifications
of the staff required to run in-company Basic Training, and the practical facilities required.
The requirements are stringent and are oriented to manufacturing companies with large
workforces, with limited relevance to the growing service skills sector. The qualifications of
the instructors are also codified under Rule 9 Schedule IV; these are also stringent as they
require, as well as a certificate and experience, more advanced industry qualifications.
However, it is not necessary, only desirable, that training staff have a qualification in
teaching or training. Thus, although companies are required to provide formal in-house
classroom training, they are not required to employ staff qualified in teaching or training. It is
also reported that the curriculum for apprenticeship training is poor-quality and out of date.

3. Low quality of workplace curriculum

Indian companies, under the Act, must take apprentices where directed, but there is no
guarantee that the training they receive is of a high quality. One of the major reasons for the
lack of uniform quality is the absence of workplace curriculum that is current, accessible and
able to be implemented in the workplace. The training curriculum is recognised as being
outdated and there are concerns that there is insufficient theoretical component. There is also
a concern that employers train apprentices only in the skills and procedures for their
particular workplace. The fact that there is a pass rate of only about 70% for apprentices
undertake the apprenticeship certificate tests can be seen as an indicator of inadequate
In the absence of an effectively functioning apprenticeship system, many large companies
have developed their own customised training programs for new entrants into the industry.
Employers who are dissatisfied with current training arrangements design their own for their
own particular labour force needs. However this means that the workers have no access to
nationally recognised qualifications, and there is no mechanism within the system for the
registration of industry based training providers.

4. Lack of external off-the-job training

In most other countries, a dual model of apprenticeship training is offered. Apprentices
attend a training provider on a regular basis, for example on day release or on block
release. Approximately one-fifth of apprentices time in many countries is spent in this way.
The arguments for such a system are that apprentices have a richer learning experience, a
poorly equipped or staffed workplace is compensated for, and apprentices learn from other
apprentices. The system also lessens the need for employers to provide theoretical training or
to provide space and equipment for off-the-job learning In other words, the responsibility for
ensuring that an apprentice is skilled at the end of his or her term is shared among two
parties. In the Indian system, once people commence an apprenticeship, having completed
either ITI/ITC vocational qualifications or basic training, they do not undergo any further
external training.
5. Limited occupational coverage
The Indian formal apprenticeship system has a limited, and in some ways outdated, list of
designated trades in which apprenticeships can be offered. Directorate General of
Employment and Training figures show 97 industries covered by the Apprentices Act
( and 35 Groups of Designated Trades,
each having several sub-groups (
Numbers in most trades are small. 2009 figures for apprentice commencements show that
only nine occupations had an intake of more than 1000 apprentices and only three of those
(food production, steward and retail assistant were in non-manufacturing/utilities areas. Many
trades had just a handful, or nil, entrants, and there is a relative exclusion of the service and
business sectors in the lists of trades in which apprenticeships can be offered.1 The wording
of the legislation indicates that the system is targeted at manufacturing industry. Yet
manufacturing industry employs only about 11% of the workforce, with only 21.5% in
manufacturing, construction, utilities and mining combined2.
While it is possible for new occupations to be added by MoLE on request from enterprises, it
is reported that the system for doing this is cumbersome and slow, and there does not appear
to be a systematic process in place for scanning the economy adding new occupations, as
there is for example in Germany.
6. Limited employer and industry involvement
The complexity of the apprenticeship system, the absence of public knowledge about its
operation and the lack of branding all contribute to a lack of industry involvement in the
formulation of policies and practices relating to apprenticeships. Under the National Policy
1 Annexures, Trade apprenticeship training in India as on 31.12.2009, 2011, Ministry of Labour
2 Second annual report to the people on employment 2011, Ministry of Labour& Employment

on Skills Development, 21 Sector Skills Councils are being slowly established, and these
represent an effort to more closely align business, industry, employers and other stakeholders
in Public Private Partnerships. However it still remains the case that industry does not feel
that it has a voice in the formulation of policy or in the practical day to day implementation
of the apprenticeship systems.
Individual employers also face obstacles in their involvement. Pan India companies (with
apprentices in more than four states in the country) have to negotiate a number of state and
central government instrumentalities to gain approval, and this is a stumbling block. Approval
for private sector companies to take apprentices comes under the control of the states. For
companies operating across a number of states this becomes a highly bureaucratic process,
and industry associations are only involved in a limited way.
7. Overly strict and burdensome regulation and compliance
Analysis of the Apprenticeship Act (1961) stipulations and of recent reports on the Indian
system confirms the fact that compliance is onerous for employers and often involves high
costs accruing to the employers, and penal consequences and fines for breaches of the
legislation and the accompanying Schedule of Rules. Enforcement of the rules is said to be
lax but this is unlikely to comfort employers who are afraid to participate in the formal
system because of the penalties for any breach of the regulations that may include periods of
imprisonment. The heavy requirements for in-company off-the-job training mean that
employers must jump a high bar to be considered satisfactory as apprentice employers.
Moreover, apprentices enjoy greater employment conditions and employment protection than
other employees and this has been reported as leading to a reluctance to hire apprentices as it
is not easy to terminate them. Apprentices are also relatively expensive to employ in terms of
holiday provision, allowable hours of work etc, although the stipend is low.
Reporting requirements are also heavy, with detailed information about each apprentice being
required. It is difficult to see the purpose for such detailed information and it would not be
possible to continue these practices if the system was to be expanded, because the
administrative burden would be too great.

8. Low status of apprentice training

India has a very long tradition of informal training and workplace learning. This tradition is
preserved today in the informal apprenticeship system that exists alongside the formal
system. However the formal system appears to have been beset by a range of problems that
have resulted in a low level of esteem and status. In India the perceived low status of
vocational education has meant the better graduates of secondary schools are unlikely to
choose to undertake apprenticeships.
9. Responsibilities of parties unclear
The overly complex administrative systems mean that it is difficult for apprentices,
employers and other stakeholders to understand the system and their roles in it. There is a
relative lack of easily accessible information. This means that the different parties may be
unclear about their responsibilities. At a higher level, there is willingness among stakeholders

such as industry bodies to help to grow the apprenticeship system but the points of
intervention are difficult to pinpoint. In most if not all other countries, apprenticeship systems
are regarded as complex; so in itself complexity is not necessarily an issue. However there
need to be nodes of expertise in the system where people can receive advice, information
and support.

10. Need to involve more and more diverse participants

There is concern surrounding the reservation of apprenticeship places for to allow
disadvantaged groups, notwithstanding a wish to provide opportunities for such groups. In
2008 the Apprentice Act was amended in relation to reservation for candidates in Other
backward Classes. However the reservation requirement creates further burden for
employers. South Africa has turned is apprenticeship system from being white-dominated to
being broadly racially representative. In that country this was part of a broader national
imperative to redress apartheid deficits; reporting was required to include race and gender of
In addition, apprentices are predominantly young people (with a minimum age of 14), and
there is no designated system for mature-aged people to access apprenticeships. In other
countries apprenticeships are generally explicitly, open to all ages although there may be
differential incentives to encourage young people into apprenticeships as it is generally
regarded that apprenticeship is especially useful for young people. In India a large proportion
of the adult population is unskilled and apprenticeship could offer the possibility of upskilling
to this part of the workforce.
Gender has also been identified as an issue, with women having less representation in
apprenticeships than men. This is most readily explained by apprenticeships being focused on
occupations normally favoured by males, and is a feature of countries with relatively small
apprenticeship systems. Similarly the relative underrepresentation of rural areas in
apprenticeships can be related to the type of occupations routinely involved rather than any
specific urban bias. The gendered nature of apprentice and other vocational training is well
recognised in India, and a recent report3 suggested the need to improve the quality of training
for those occupations chosen by girls, recognising that they would not necessarily wish to
undertake male occupations.
The physical fitness requirements of the Apprenticeship Rules limit the opportunity for some
people to participate. However there is provision for people with specific disabilities.
11. Inadequate stipend
The stipend that is required to be paid to apprentices is very low and is not sufficient to live
on. While employers may choose to pay more to their apprentices, they need not. In India,
unlike in other countries, low wages are not compensated for by any certainty of postapprenticeship employment. In contrast to the other Indian apprentice schemes, Trade
Apprentice stipends are not subsidised by government. The low stipend means that people are
deterred from taking up apprenticeships. It is normal in other countries for apprentices to be
3 Report of the sub-committee on vision for vocational education 2009. Ministry of Labour &

paid a discounted wage (ie not as much as other workers), but generally this is set at a
proportion of the normal wage for that industry, or as a proportion of the minimum wage.
12. Lack of progression into higher qualifications
In the continuing absence of a well-developed national qualifications framework, it is
difficult for apprenticeship certificates to offer progression into higher level qualifications.
Apprentices who pass their trade tests (All India Trades tests) obtain a National
Apprenticeship Certificate. However without integration into a national qualification
framework, such certificates stand outside the formal educational system and are therefore
relatively unattractive to potential entrants who will look for potential pathways upwards.
13. Limited progression into permanent employment
It is reported that apprenticeships tend not to lead to permanent employment. They are not,
reportedly, retained by the employer who provided them with the apprenticeship, nor are they
greatly in demand in the labour market among other employers. These are two different
issues with, potentially, different sets of reasons. Included among the reasons could be some
or all of the following: low level of skills development, lack of respect for the apprenticeship
certificate, apprenticeship seats not being attached to a genuine work need, and too great a
disparity between apprentice stipends and workers pay meaning that it is cost-effective to
keep employing new batches of apprentices. Without specific research on these issues, it is
not possible to say which reasons apply. In addition to the problem of employment on
completion, there is also no provision for finding alternative places for apprentices who lose
their jobs through no fault of their own.

Potential application of the features of a model

apprenticeship system to the Indian context
Table 1: Selected features of a model apprenticeship system, mapped against identified
issues in India
Recommended feature
Occupational coverage
Apprenticeships are available in a wide range of
occupations, particularly those that are typically
undertaken by women as well as men
Pathways exist for disadvantaged people and for
people without necessary entry qualifications
Pathways into apprenticeship (and beyond) are clear
and well publicised to reach all potential candidates
National government structures
National policy equally emphasises training aspects as

Identified issues in India

5. Limited occupational coverage

8. Status of apprentice training

10. Need to involve more and more diverse

3. Low quality of workplace curriculum


well as employment aspects of apprenticeship

Rigorous qualifications that meet industry demand are
regularly updated
All major stakeholder groups (employers, training
providers, employer groups and trade unions) are
involved in the development and maintenance of
apprenticeship regulation and structures
Simple systems for adding new occupations to the
apprenticeship system operate according to specified

Quality systems
Training providers
Training providers are viewed as an integral part of the
training system
Training providers are subject to quality regimes
including audits
Content of qualifications is viewable on the internet
Teaching staff of training institutions are required to
meet qualification/experience requirements
A registration scheme for organisations offering
apprenticeships, with requisite criteria. Proportionate
criteria (ie less stringent) developed for SMEs,
especially micro businesses
On the job training is subject to some form of
oversight/quality assurance.
Continuing upskilling programs for company trainers
and teachers are in place.
Employers are able to be registered as a training
provider for the off the job component of

Legislation and administrative procedures are
harmonised across jurisdictions to enhance mobility
and improve understanding of systems
Respective responsibilities of the employer, the
training provider and the apprentice are clear

4. Lack of external off-the-job training

8. Low status of apprentice training
12. Lack of progression into higher
1. Lack of enterprise engagement in the
5. Limited occupational coverage
6. Limited employer and industry
9. Responsibilities of parties unclear
10. Need to involve more and more diverse

2. Inappropriate requirements for incompany training

3. Low quality of workplace curriculum
4. Lack of external off-the-job training
8. Status of apprentice training
12. Lack of progression into higher

7. Overly strict and burdensome regulation

and compliance

2. Inappropriate requirements for incompany training

3. Low quality of workplace curriculum
4. Lack of external off-the-job training
6. Limited employer and industry
8. Status of apprentice training
13. Limited progression into permanent

6. Limited employer and industry

9. Responsibilities of parties unclear

Financial incentives exist to encourage enterprises to

participate (subject to monitoring of satisfactory
performance including audits)
Additional incentives are available for employers to
employ disabled or disadvantaged people as
Wages or stipend should not be much lower than the
minimum wages
The State pays social contributions for apprentices
Financial incentives for apprentices to complete their
contracts and for employers who continue to employ
their apprentices on completion
Provisions for the apprentice
A combination of on and off the job learning with
around 20% of time at a training provider
A chance to mix with apprentices from other
Attainment of a recognised qualification
A training plan within the company
Opportunities to experience different workplaces if
working in a limited environment
A case manager to oversee progress in off and on the
job training
Opportunities to switch employers for good reason
Support for employers and apprentices
Centrally-provided workplace curriculum and learning
materials for enterprises
Cohort management systems within or across
Support for small and medium enterprises, through
structured arrangements, by specified bodies
Support for employers rather than punitive measures
for non-compliance
Easily available information about the system for
would be apprentices and employers
Fall back system for apprentices whose employer can
no longer afford to employ them

1. Lack of enterprise engagement in the

5. Limited occupational coverage
6. Limited employer and industry
10. Need to involve more and more diverse
11. Inadequate stipend
13. Limited progression into permanent

2. Inappropriate requirements for incompany training

3. Low quality of workplace curriculum
4. Lack of external off-the-job training
8. Status of apprentice training
10. Need to involve more and more diverse

2. Inappropriate requirements for incompany training

3. Low quality of workplace curriculum
9. Responsibilities of parties unclear
13. Limited progression into permanent

1. Replace compulsory participation requirements with voluntary registration

Major change: Remove the compulsory requirement for participation of eligible enterprises
and enable voluntary registration and participation. Redraft eligibility criteria particularly, to
allow for participation by medium and small enterprises.
Minor change: Retain compulsory requirements for certain enterprises but add new voluntary
registration option for MSMEs that meet certain criteria.

2. Introduce off-the-job training throughout the period of an apprenticeship

Major change: Introduce mandated off-the-job training of approx. 20% of time for
apprentices to attend a training provider. Allow public and private training providers to
deliver off-the-job training component.
Minor change: Allow employers to outsource the in-house off-the-job training (basic
training) to training providers. Allow MES graduates to obtain credit for their courses
against the in-company basic training.


3. Reduce the regulatory burden on employers

Major change: Reduction of the inspection regime and replace with a document-based
registration system (preferably on-line) supplemented by an audit regime. Harmonise
apprentice entitlements with those of other employees in an enterprise/sector. Registration to
be encouraged by the availability of financial incentives (see below) only to registered
Minor change: Reduce the number of regulations with which employers must comply
including the relatively severe penalty clauses. Harmonise apprentice entitlements with those
of other employees in an enterprise/sector.
4. Provide financial incentives to participants, enterprises and training providers
Major change:
Change the stipend to a proportion of minimum wage for the occupation;
Introduce financial incentives for employers on employment, completion and
retention of an apprentice, and for employing disadvantaged apprentices4.
Provide added funding to training providers (ITIs/ITCs and other) for updating of
equipment etc on a performance-based system;
Ensure major government infrastructure projects budget for payment of a proportion
of apprentices wages to ensure apprentices are employed;
Taxation concessions for employers who employ apprentices.
Minor change: Introduce financial incentives for employers eg on employment and
completion of an apprentice, and for employing disadvantaged apprentices.
5. Introduce non-financial strategies to increase participation among more people
Major change:

Open apprenticeships to people of all ages above 14 years (in non-hazardous trades)
and without minimum educational qualifications (with LLN support)
Adapt the Australian Enterprise Registered Training Organisation system to India, ie
ability of employers to be (by choice) the off-the-job training provider; publicity
campaign, accessible web presence, and school careers education. Improved
information about occupations in demand through better linking of apprenticeship
information to labour market statistics.

Minor change: Undertake a publicity campaign, develop an accessible web presence, and
highlight apprenticeships in school careers education.

6. Simplify and harmonise the system

4 Possible sources of funding include the NSDC, sector-specific levy systems implemented by
industry, national fund established with donor support.

Major change: Introduce a single national apprenticeship system that harmonises all
government activities related to apprenticeship, ie the schemes run separately by MOLE and
Minor change: Merge the Apprenticeship Training Scheme and Craftsman Training Scheme
under one apprenticeship scheme that involves both on- and off-the-job training. Develop
easily accessible, comprehensible, and widely disseminated information about differences
among States, with special arrangements for major companies to access a national system.
7. Increase market currency of apprentice qualifications
Major change:
Minor change: Encourage the requirement for a qualification among employers by promotion
among industry bodies and/or access to government contracts.
8. Upgrade quality and recognition of apprentice certification
Major change: Align apprentice certification with appropriate levels in the developing
qualification system so that apprentices can progress to higher level qualifications (including
university qualifications) through apprenticeship pathways.
Minor change: Ensure that apprenticeships in specific trades align with NVQF/NSQF
qualifications being established by SSC, including provisions for off the job training and dual
certification. Work with SSC and industry to review apprentice qualifications to ensure
appropriate and comparable skills and knowledge content among occupations, and that
content is relevant and up-to-date.
9. Improve workplace curriculum
Major change: Expand the Craft Instructor Training Scheme to provide professional
development to employers in managing apprentices and delivering on the job training;
institute oversight of workplace training for each apprentice by a designated member of staff
at an external training provider (case manager).
Minor change: Improve and update the content of the workplace curriculum/competency
based learning materials and exemplar training plans available to employers.
10. Introduce new third parties to the apprenticeship system to help manage ebbs
and flows in the economy and provide more support for some groups of
apprentices and employers
Major change: Introduce third party employers (similar to Group Training Organisations in
Australia) acting as labour hire companies, to employ apprentices and lease them to
employers during the period of the apprenticeship, to liaise among enterprises (particularly
SMEs) to ensure apprentices receive all-round training, to support employers to implement
apprenticeships and to provide a source of expert information to enterprises. Such
organisations would receive a proportion of government funding.
Minor change: Provide funding to tripartite industry bodies for a sub-set of such activities in
their respective sectors.


11. Improve skills and expertise of those delivering training

Major change:
Introduce higher-level teaching qualifications and industry currency requirements for teachers
at training providers;
introduce voluntary meister-type qualification for industry trainers;
introduce mandatory upgraded instructor module for all industry trainers, focusing on
learning through work.
Minor change: Make available an upgraded and voluntary instructor module for all industry
trainers, focusing on learning through work.
12. Greater involvement of stakeholders in system
Major change:

Undertake a systematic review of stakeholders in apprenticeships and their potential

involvement at different levels of the system (including at the Central Apprenctieship
Council and Regional Directorates of Apprenticeship Training.
Request the Prime Ministers Council on Skills Development to direct other
Ministries responsible for major schemes (eg MRLM, NULM, CESS Funds) to
provide financial incentives for apprenticeship commencements in their respective

Minor change:

Provide funding to tripartite industry bodies for a sub-set of such activities in their
respective sectors.
Liaise with NSDC and SSC to ensure apprenticeships are considered during
development of sector strategic plans